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Football & Mental Health

Marcus Rashford has been victim to multiple racial abuse, death threats and constant criticism during his time at Manchester United. This picture shows his disbelief as he missed a penalty during the UEFA Euro Cup Final against Italy. Later that night his comment section and DMs were flooded with racial abuse.

Mental Health can affect everyone, but I feel everyone forgets that it can affect football players too. Rob Blackbourne, who was a Scottish Professional player stated that ‘people think footballers have got it easy’ this quote reiterates my point on the publics lack of empathy for footballers. Over 10% of the current population experiences depression but today in this blog, we are going to deep dive into football and mental health. The world Health Organisation defines mental health as a state of well being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to her or his community. How football players can develop mental health problems can stem from environmental or biological factors. Fans commenting racial or derogatory chants all add up to the environmental factors contributing to mental health problems.

You look at the conditions that footballers are put under such as: performance pressure, transition in and out of the top level, injuries, and overtraining. Current statistics state that 16.7% of elite Danish and Swedish football players have been found to displaying depressive symptoms linked to perfectionistic concerns, competitive anxiety, and social phobia, which is a long term and overwhelming fear of social situations. In return, public opinions believe that players could just back out if they cannot soak in the pressure that they are facing. These suggestions can worsen their state, especially because they love the sport so forcing them to tap out can come across as insensitive. We must ask ourselves; how can we help these professionals better their mental state. Rob Blackbourne when he spoke to Sky Sports said he has been holding therapy sessions more than four years. There have been other agencies like Coping Through Football (CFT) that is a multi-agency collaboration between various East London football clubs like Waltham Forest Primary Care and London Playing Fields Foundation. It was launched in May 2007 with the objective of improving mental health service suers mental and physical health. They have also tried to understand different coaches’ views of the projects positive and negative implications for mental and physical health and social and community relationships

We need to do better on fighting the mental health stigma in football. Stats show that individuals with mental health problems are statistically more likely to be obese, 2-4 times more likely at risk of cardiovascular disease, 2-4 times more likely a greater risk of diabetes and the life expectancy of someone with schizophrenia is normally ten years less (because of physical health problems). Taking part in physical activity is also a huge example of helping footballers and athlete alike better their mental health. In 2015 a FIFPRO study revealed that 38% of active footballers have experienced symptoms of depression with a clear lack of support from within the industry too. FIFPRO since 2013 have been working on players mental health with scientific studies being developed as well as practical tools that players can use.

As people we need to come together and cut down completely on the abuse that we give the professional abusers. We also need to speak out as people might be going through the same mental health problems that footballers are going through too. This is a very sensitive topic that shouldn’t be taken lightly, we should take it more seriously. Visiting therapists, talking to friends; all these little tips can help your friend and also you.

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